Jun 23, 2015 | By Alec

As 3D printing is again and again proving itself to be an excellent design tool for pieces of jewelry, the question shifts more towards how to use it stylishly. After all, just because you can make just about every shape possible, doesn’t mean that you should. That’s why a Massachusetts based-design studio has taken a very interesting approach to 3D printable design patterns. Called Nervous System, they have been designing gorgeous and intricate works for years, but they have finally revealed their inspiration: natural growth patterns.

For those of you who’ve never heard of them, Nervous System is a generative design studio squarely found at the intersection of art and technology. Founded by Jessica Rosenkrantz and Jesse Louis-Rosenberg in 2007, they don’t just play around with options in design software, but actively draw inspiration from natural phenomena. ‘We write computer programs based on processes and patterns found in nature and use those programs to create unique and affordable art, jewelry, and housewares,’ they summarize.

And that is exactly what Floraform, their latest design system, is. ‘Floraform is inspired by the biomechanics of growing leaves and blooming flowers and explores the development of surfaces through differential growth. We used this system to computationally craft a new 3D-printed jewelry collection,’ they write in a blog post. And as you the clip above, this revolves around simulations of how unusual plants grow.

‘If a single cell were to divide and grow uniformly, it would result in a wrinkled blob. However, through carefully coordinated subdivision and differentiation, biological systems produce structures with specific, reproducible forms and functions. Growth isn’t uniform but instead differential,’ they explain. Simply put, some surfaces grow quicker than others, eventually forming macroscopic irregularities that can be very beautiful indeed. Part of this growth comes from tropisms, or directional responses to outside stimulations such as where the light comes from and objects plants come into contact with.This process began with a fascination for the unusual Celosia cristata flower, which took the designers on a very complicated computational process.

And this process was thoroughly rooted in a complicated scientific process, in which a couple of papers by L. Mahadevan played an important role. ‘Looking at the shapes of rippled leaves and blooming flowers, Mahadevan proposed that their ruffled forms could be described by a surface growing differentially from its edge. We found this interesting because complex ruffles develop from a very simple procedure: grow more at the edge,’ they explain. ‘At the same time, we became enamored with a flower called Cockscomb, a mutant cultivar of Celosia that produces dense, convoluted blooms instead of its normal branching, tree-like blossoms. It exhibits this amazing ruffled shape that is unlike any flower we’d ever seen.’

These type of discoveries convinced the studio to start building a digital environment that incorporates all these different floral growth aspects into something you can work with. This required careful analysis of various differential growth patterns, including point-based/tip splitting growth (with a single bifurcating growth point), line-based or fascinated growth and edge-based growth (such as many complicated flowers). In short, they were doing a bit of digital gardening. For more on this technical process, check out the Nervous System website here.

While a lot of work, they ended up with a design tool perfect for 3D printable designing. ‘Our first results were a series of sculptures that we produced for our “Growing Objects” exhibition at Stonybrook University. This included pieces 3D-printed in full color, where the coloration of the surface reflects the growth rates that produced it, as well as a zoetrope that acts as a physical animation of the growth process,’ they explain, though Floraform has been specifically applied to jewelry.

Each piece in their amazing collection has been the result of a unique growth process in their Floraform software. ‘The flowering structures expand fastest along their edges, evolving from simple surfaces to flexuous forms that fill space with curves, folds, and ruffles,’ they explain. And with the body functioning as the environmental constraint, all designs seem to grow around your finger, wrist or neck. Very impressive indeed. Broadly speaking, there are two separate growth forms that can be distinguished, with one acting like flowers and the other like the frilly arms of jellyfish.

All of these are, of course, 3D printed in plastic and metal. ‘Most of the pieces are available in white, petal pink, or black nylon that has been fused together from powder, layer by layer, in a 3D-printing process called Selective Laser Sintering. There are also designs available in sterling silver. These are first 3D-printed in wax and then cast in precious metal by lost wax casting,’ they explain. The result is one of the most impressive 3D printed jewelry collections we’ve ever seen.

And perhaps the best news of all? Nervous System is working on an online platform of their Floraform, where users can cultivate their own naturally inspired jewelry creations. While not yet in the beta-testing phase, contact the team through their website to get onboard with one of the most remarkable 3D printed jewelry projects around. 




Posted in 3D Design



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